How to Protect Yourself From Winter Claims Against Your Homeowner’s Insurance
4 Common Winter Liability Claims and How to Avoid Them
Whether it’s the ice and snow building up on your walkways, ice-covered tree limbs, or dangerous driving conditions, winter is one of the most common times of year for liability claims against homeowner’s insurance policies. Luckily, there are some things you can do now to help reduce the risk of you having a claim filed with your insurance company.
Here are four common winter liability claims and what you need to do now to prevent them from happening to you.
#1: Slip and Falls
Falling down on an ice-covered walkway is not only painful and dangerous, but it can also cause real damage. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 people are hospitalized for slip and fall accidents every year. And, slip and fall accidents that happen on icy walkways and driveways are easily among the most common liability claims filed against homeowner’s policies in the United States.
To reduce your chance of being involved in a personal injury case, you need to make sure you walkways and driveway are shoveled free of snow and any ice scraped up immediately after a storm. Spread anti-slip material over the surface of the walkways and driveway, like commercial-grade salt, kitty litter, or sand.
You should also make sure all your home’s exterior lights are working and aimed in the right directions, and have handrails installed on any outdoor stairways.
#2: Property Damage From Falling Limbs or Trees
Winter weather can consist of strong winds and heavy ice accumulations, and both of these increase the risk that branches or even an entire tree could fall and land on your neighbor’s house or property. Because storm-related damage is considered an “act of God” by most insurance companies, it is important to discuss your liability concerns with your insurance company and ensure that you have coverage to protect you from them.
To reduce your risk further, make sure you remove any weak, low-hanging, or dead branches from your trees. You should also trim any branches that are hanging over your neighbor’s property line. If you have dead trees on your land, you should have them removed or at least cut down low enough, so they won’t damage anything should they fall.
#3: Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver To Whom You Served Alcohol
If you love to host parties at the holidays, and you like to serve alcohol to your guests, be mindful of how much each person drinks because should someone be injured on your property or leave your home inebriated and have an auto accident, you may be held liable.
To protect yourself, make sure you have the appropriate amount of liability insurance on your homeowner’s insurance policy and never let your guests drink and drive. Make a habit to collect everyone’s keys as they enter your home. If you are serving alcohol, make sure you serve food with it and stop serving drinks to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
#4: Stolen Packages
According to a story in USA Today, one out of every three Americans has had packages stolen from their doorsteps. If you’re an online shopper, then you need to be aware of when your purchases are expected to be delivered. Remember: the winter holiday season is when thieves hit the streets, looking for boxes left on doorsteps. It happens every year, so you need to be prepared.
The first thing you should do when placing your order is to select the “sign for package” shipping option if and when it’s available. This will require you to sign the delivery slip when the package is delivered. If you know a shipment is supposed to arrive and you can’t be home, leave a few lights on inside the home to make the thieves think someone might be home.
You should also add any expensive items you purchase to your homeowner’s insurance under home contents, and print out and keep all receipts for your purchases for claims and reimbursements.
The golden rule in life is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. If you do everything you can to reduce your risk of homeowner’s liability claims, then you will improve your odds of getting through the long, cold winter unscathed.